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Milos Raonic of Canada serves to Paul-Henri Mathieu of France during their men's singles match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York August 30, 2012. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS)
Milos Raonic of Canada serves to Paul-Henri Mathieu of France during their men's singles match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York August 30, 2012. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS)

Canada to host top-ranked Spain in first round of Davis Cup World Group Add to ...

Canada will get its choice of venue and surface when it faces top-ranked Spain in the first round of the 2013 Davis Cup World Group.

While that means the Canadians will be able to maximize the talents of hard-serving Milos Raonic, team captain Martin Laurendeau doesn’t think there’s a surface out there that can slow down the powerful Spanish.

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“The Spaniards win everything from clay to grass, to indoors to outdoors,” he said Wednesday on a conference call from Montreal.

“They’re good and they have the depth to really not be fooled by any kind of surface.”

Still, hosting the tie and having control over the venue provides the best chance Canada has against the Davis Cup juggernaut. They will be able to stay away from clay surfaces, which favour the Spanish and deaden the serve of world No. 15 Raonic.

“We’ve just got to be sure we pick the surface and the conditions that really will help to help maximize our No. 1 player,” Laurendeau said. “He’s obviously shown that he can beat a lot of top players.

“If we were to play in Spain, they would for sure play us on clay, even if it’s indoors. Now we have the opportunity to play on a surface that suits our game a lot more. We can control that, so that’s the reassuring part.”

The two teams have met only once before, with Spain winning 4-1 at home on clay in 1991.

Given Canada’s weather and the Feb. 1-3 dates for the best-of-five series, an indoor venue was pretty much a lock. Laurendeau said he’s sure Tennis Canada’s phone will be ringing off the hook with offers to host, but there’s no rush to commit and they will make a strategic decision.

Canada is ranked No. 12 in the 16-team World Group and kept their spot in the competition’s elite group with a 4-1 victory over South Africa in a playoff last weekend.

Earlier this year, Canada lost 4-1 to France in the first round of World Group play.

Laurendeau said tennis has great momentum right now in Canada and a match like this will only give that a boost.

“But on the other hand, we are playing the best team of the draw. So it’s a tough assignment,” he added. “But eventually, like I’ve said before, we need to beat a seeded team and the best chance we have to beat a seeded team will be at home.

“So, whether it’s France or it’s Spain or another country, we need to pull an upset somewhere. We do have players and we do have doubles who are in a position to win and upset a team at the moment. I really believe that.”

Spain’s captain Alex Corretja isn’t taking the Canadians lightly.

“Canada was one of the strongest rivals we could have gotten, not only for the quality of a team led by Milos Raonic but also because we’ll have to play as visiting team just one week after the Australian Open, which means another long trip and time change,” he said.

“It will be a complicated tie.”

Elsewhere, Switzerland was paired against the Czech Republic in Wednesday’s draw, setting up a potential head-to-head between two of the top players in the game — Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych.

The top-ranked Federer has a career 11-5 record against Berdych, but the No. 6 Czech defeated him in four sets at the U.S. Open. Berdych also beat Federer in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2010 and at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Switzerland will be at home for the series. Federer does not always play in the early rounds of the Davis Cup, and his plans for 2013 are uncertain.

In other matches, the United States will be at home against Brazil, and Argentina will host Germany. It’s also France versus Israel, Kazakhstan versus Austria, Italy versus Croatia and Belgium versus Serbia.

Federer played in last weekend’s playoff against the Netherlands, winning both of his singles matches to lead Switzerland to a 3-2 victory that ensured his country stayed in the World Group for 2013.

Berdych secured all three points for the Czechs in their semifinal win over Argentina. The Czechs will host Spain in the final Nov. 16-18.

The Czechs hold a 6-2 advantage against Switzerland, although the Swiss won the last time they met on home soil in 1998.

— With files from The Associated Press

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